Agamemnon heard that Odysseus had gone mad and was tilling his farm like a common peasant, so he decided to visit him in Ithaca. And yes, it was hard to believe that the wily Odysseus was now a madman. But Agamemnon was not one to be tricked so easily. He knew Odysseus loved his wife Penelope and family dearly, so he put Odysseus’ son Telemachus in his path, and the latter was forced to stop.
Now, Agamemnon knew Odysseus was only feigning madness and spoke unto him, “Odysseus, son of Laertes, one such as you have never been known for cowardice but guile. I canst not believe that the greatest pirate in the Aegean would cower back upon the chance to crush the Trojan navy and avenge my brother Menelaus of his lost pride.”
Odysseus now admitted the truth, “High King Agamemnon, it is not for fear of the Trojans that I have feigned madness but the love of my dear wife Penelope and precious son Telemachus. For the Oracle of Delphi hath told me that going to war with the Trojans this once, I will not be back in ten years. But I have made a promise to the Hellenes, and the son of Laertes can not break his promise, so I will lead your navy for you and challenge the might of Priam and his great son Hector.”
And so with these words, Odysseus king of Ithaca decided to lead the navy of the Hellenes for Agamemnon. He also coaxed Achilles into joining the war.
Just then, the Hellenes questioned whether Agamemnon, High King though he may be, should lead them against Troy or whether Diomedes, son of Tydeus and king of Argos, would be a better choice. After failing to win the hand of Helen, Diomedes married the beautiful Ageilia, but he now decided to challenge my brother’s leadership out of spite.
At that point, the northwestern wind that was to lead us against Troy was missing. The soothsayer Calchus spoke to the gods of Olympus and heard that they needed a supreme sacrifice for Poseidon, god of the seas.
“What of this sacrifice?” asked Agamemnon.
“Poseidon has spoken, my Hegemon. Only the life of your daughter Iphigenia will suffice”, Calchus replied.
I could see Agamemnon’s eyes sink in despair. Iphigenia was the daughter he had with Clytemnestra, and he loved her dearly. She was a sunshine to all of us, but the honor of an Atreides could not be defiled. So Agamemnon would sacrifice his beloved daughter for the leadership of the Hellenes and conquest of Troy and to restore the honor of his brother.
And so a summon was sent to the court of Mycannae to summon Iphigenia to the Hellespoint where she was to be married to Achilles, son of Peleus. Now, there was not one maiden in Greece who did not have an eye for him. For though Achilles was no Adonis, he was comely enough with his golden locks flying high and his muscles bulging like Hercules himself.
When Iphigenia arrived though, she was to find to her bitter shock that she was to be sacrificed to the gods, so that Poseidon may send the wind for their attack on Troy, but she meekly accepted her faith and was willing to die at the hand of her own father.
Before that, she went and spoke to Achilles, “Son of Peleus, my life is forfeit today, but I must have you know that I have no heart for any other man but you. May my life buy the winds that bring you to your glory in this war with Troy.”
And yes, that was what Achilles craved all along, was it not? Glory!! His mother Thetis once asked him if he wanted a long life or a glorious one, and the young man replied, “I would rather have a short and glorious one that my life be remembered for all eternity.” His eyes did not move, and I could see no sympathy or feelings for my niece.
I wept for Iphigenia, for her fate was too cruel. For the lack of virtue of my wife, a hundred Hellene ships were launched against Troy, and my niece would have to give her life for us, and yet, Achilles could not offer her one bit of sympathy. He had no eyes for her, but all of it was for glory. These are the heroes we worship.
Agamemnon kissed his daughter one last time, placed her on the altar, and slew her. As soon as Iphigenia breathed her last breath, I could see tears in my brother’s eyes. Diomedes would never challenge the Artreides for hegemony over the Hellenes again, for hero though he may be, he could never think of making such sacrifice to Poseidon.
A gust of wind blew our way, swaying my hair in the direction of Southeast. For Iphigenia’s life, true to Calchus’s words, hath bought the wind that would bring us to the walls of Troy.
But as the traveling bard Homer once spoke unto me, “King Menelaus, beware what you wish for.”